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August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy RIP
Posted by Michael Cohen

In commemorating the extraordinary and complicated life of Ted Kennedy there has been significant focus on Kennedy's many accomplishments on domestic policy. But how about a few thoughts on his foreign policy acumen.

I had a chance today to read over the speech that Kennedy gave in September 2002 explaining his concerns about a possible war with Iraq. While Kennedy's speech occurred early in the Iraq debate and was focused more on finding a non-military solution to the security challenge posed by Saddam, his predictions about the consequences of war with Iraq are stunning in their prescience:

Just one year into the campaign against Al Qaeda, the Administration is shifting focus, resources, and energy to Iraq. The change in priority is coming before we have fully eliminated the threat from Al Qaeda, before we know whether Osama Bin Laden is dead or alive, and before we can be assured that the fragile post-Taliban government in Afghanistan will consolidate its authority.

No one disputes that America has lasting and important interests in the Persian Gulf, or that Iraq poses a significant challenge to U.S. interests. There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime is a serious danger, that he is a tyrant, and that his pursuit of lethal weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated. He must be disarmed.

How can we best achieve this objective in a way that minimizes the risks to our country? How can we ignore the danger to our young men and women in uniform, to our ally Israel, to regional stability, the international community, and victory against terrorism?

There is clearly a threat from Iraq, and there is clearly a danger, but the Administration has not made a convincing case that we face such an imminent threat to our national security that a unilateral, pre-emptive American strike and an immediate war are necessary.

Nor has the Administration laid out the cost in blood and treasure of this operation.

With all the talk of war, the Administration has not explicitly acknowledged, let alone explained to the American people, the immense post-war commitment that will be required to create a stable Iraq.

The President's challenge to the United Nations requires a renewed effort to enforce the will of the international community to disarm Saddam. Resorting to war is not America's only or best course at this juncture. There are realistic alternatives between doing nothing and declaring unilateral or immediate war. War should be a last resort, not the first response. Let us follow that course, and the world will be with us – even if, in the end, we have to move to the ultimate sanction of armed conflict.

The Bush Administration says America can fight a war in Iraq without undermining our most pressing national security priority -- the war against Al Qaeda. But I believe it is inevitable that a war in Iraq without serious international support will weaken our effort to ensure that Al Qaeda terrorists can never, never, never threaten American lives again.

Of course, as it turned out, the Bush Administration ended up following Kennedy's recommendation to go to the United Nations and force Saddam to allow inspectors back in. And as we well know today the Bush Administration's unquenchable desire to invade and occupy Iraq could not be sated by mere UN inspections. And so the war came.

It is one of the great tragedies of American history that more people didn't listen to Ted Kennedy nearly seven years ago. Maybe if they had we would today only be commemorating his full life - and not also mourning the untimely loss of 2nd Lt. Joseph D. Fortin, 22, of St. Johnsbury, Vt .  Second Lt. Fortin died three days ago from an IED attack in Hussaniyah, Iraq - the 4,334th casualty of the war in Iraq.


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It is indeed a tragedy that more people didn't listen to Senator Kennedy. It's nice to see something commemorating Kennedy's thoughts on foreign policy. However, that is not to say his work on domestic policy was and is not extremely important. Hopefully the MA legislature votes to allow Governor Patrick to appoint a temporary replacement; at this point every Democratic vote matters.

Congress should create an independent blue-ribbon panel or similar body to investigate a host of previously unreviewable activities of the Bush administration, including its detention, interrogation and surveillance programs. Only by chronicling and confronting the past in a comprehensive, bipartisan fashion can we reclaim our moral authority and establish a credible path forward to meet the complex challenges of a post-Sept. 11 world. replica rolex
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Ted Kennedy never backed down from any republican or the republicans we have in the democrat party.Ted Kennedy was different. He had genuine integrity, he truly loved being a senator for all the right reasons--and he was a champion for the underdog.

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